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Adam’s Stepsons

Adam's Stepsons3 Stars

Adam’s Stepsons by M. Thomas Apple is an interesting science fiction piece. We follow Dr. Heimann who designs the perfect super soldiers for the United America’s in their war against the Martian colonies. Heimann quickly discovers that he did not anticipate the brutal efficiency of the military, nor the attachment that arises from his creations. These clones are not only the peak of what the human form can do, they actually transcend humanity through intelligence and strength. They are the weapon that the United Americas will use to crush the rebellion on Mars. Dr. Heimann is shocked when one clone, Six, begins to call him “Father” and then the can of worms truly opens.

Apple’s novel is almost painfully short, only because I wanted to have more to read and dive into. He anticipates the future of inter-solar system colonization and the struggles that can arise, such as this between the United Americas and the Martian colonies. He does not neglect the complicated matter here or the scope considering the Terran governing force is losing the war and needs these clones to pan out.

The struggle between scientist and soldier is an old one, but one that takes on a new twist with the rise of cloned super soldiers. Apple goes along the lines of Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, but does not seek to critique war itself. Instead, the author goes further and asks whether these soldiers are “truly” human or are they  just “equipment” as the military officer Marquez calls them.

The conflict deepens even further when “Seth”, clone number six, as Dr. Heimann calls him when no one else is around, begins to call him “father”. The book bounces between the POV’s of the scientist and Six, which is interesting because as the book goes on Heimann becomes more and more unstable and uncertain of his mission of designing soldiers, who resemble the people that their genetic material comes from. Six, or rather, “Seth” becomes increasingly more confident in his abilities and his intelligence. All of this leads to a climax that may polarize readers, but one that will still make the reader ponder on far after they have finished the novel.

Overall, I enjoyed Apple’s prose. It reads crisp like that of Asimov or Heinlein, but I am still unsure if the short length of the work was appropriate. There is a lot of dialogue and not enough actual “action” going on throughout, so I was expecting more digging into the rich themes of personhood and philosophy of the soul. I realize that may be asking too much.

Adam’s Stepsons is a fun addition to the long canon of science fiction that dares to ask the “what if” of the future. It also seeks to ask the “should we, if we can” question that not enough science fiction is retrospective enough to ask. A good read for any science fiction lover, especially of the Heinlein or Asimov variety.

Pages: 92 | ASIN: B06XJRT8CS

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Hegira

Hegira (The Brin Archives #1)4 StarsA mutiny on the spaceship Hegira kills everyone on board. The ship is not discovered until thousands of years into the future, when it is found to be carrying all of the remaining DNA samples of the Brin, an extinct race of birdlike humanoids. Using advanced technology, two DNA samples are used to clone two of the Brin. The clones, Karm and Maripa, are sent back in time to save their race, before their planet explodes when its sun becomes a supernova. Karm gathers the greatest Brinian minds, to prepare a new life on a distant planet, but he must stay one step ahead of the ruling family consisting of a power hungry monarch and his brother, the leader of a fundamentalist religion, as science goes head to head with both religion and big government in this fast paced Sci Fi adventure.

Since Galileo, religious fundamentalists have asserted their violent opposition to ground breaking scientific discoveries, and time and again, history has shown their efforts to be naive. In Hegira, a new science fiction novel by Jim Cronin, a fundamentalist religious sect known as The Faith attempts to stop the work of the good guys, who are doing dynamic cloning research, which happens to be the only hope to save the entire race. Cronin sets all of this up rather quickly, while relying heavily on familiar time travel tropes, i.e. using knowledge of the future to make a fortune as an investor while not doing anything to alter future events. The pacing improves once the protagonist Karm establishes himself on his home planet Dyan’ta and gets to work on his mission: to save the entire race.

The strength of the book lies in the critique of the meddling of governments/militaries, and religion, with science. Hegira’s subtitle could have been: The Ethics of Cloning and the Religious Dimwits Who Think Their Opinion Matters. The bad guys in Hegira are a pair of power-hungry and conniving brothers. Brach, the king, kills their oldest brother to become the monarch, and Lerit, whose treachery leads to his position as the Archbishop of The Faith, team up to oppose Karm and his cloning research. In a way all too reminiscent of the way the church and right wing politicians have combined their forces to keep stem cell research, and other recent revelatory developments in genetics at bay, Hegira’s plot builds around what appears to be Cronin’s thesis: scientists should be left alone to do their good work.

Karm represents the future, both literally and figuratively, and his name being one letter short of karma does not seem to be a mistake. Such is an example of one of the more enjoyable quirks of the text: Cronin’s naming of things. He imagines alien animals like “thick furred pretzels,” and then hilariously, he creates great curse words, “I’ve got to get the strix out of here!” and my favorite: “Holy mutes!”

While Fans of more literary science fiction might be less than impressed with all of the tells in the dialogue, Hegira is fast paced and fun enough that such common errors of paperback fiction should not be judged too harshly. Written by a former middle school science teacher, Hegira contains plenty of cool science including cryogenics, cloning, and string theory-inspired time travel, to keep its Sci Fi readers interested. And it even manages a sweet love story.

With a little bit of everything, Hegira is a quick and fun read for fans of science fiction.

Pages: 292 | ASIN: B010E3EKC6

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